“Mental Maintenance” means working with our own minds. In this video, Tulku Migmar Tsering reminds us that all of us have minds and therefore can learn to manage them more effectively. And if we learn those skills, we can become happier and healthier people.
Balance and Mental Maintenance
In modern times, those who have fewer resources seem to experience greater physical suffering. Yet fortunate individuals who have sufficient means, or even those who are rich, often suffer mentally. Anxiety, depression, and stress can affect anybody. First, we need to take care of our actual physical needs, but then we also should care for our minds. Mental maintenance signifies stability. So first, it is good to investigate our own minds. Are they stable? Are we in control of our minds?
Classic Buddhist texts often compare our minds to crazed elephants or wild horses. Tulku suggests we consider the more modern example of a roller coaster. Don’t our minds seem to speed along, going from high to low with lots of noise and confusion? Why does this happen? Because outside circumstances influence us and then we lose control.
Mental Maintenance and Independence
We think that we are independent and that we rule our minds. But, even a brief investigation can show us that we have little control. Tulku here uses the simple example of deciding where or what to eat. How many of us can relate to this obvious situation? We think we want one thing, but then we see something different and gravitate to the new option. Or someone else suggests a third alternative and then we change our minds again. We may think we are taking control of the decision, but instead, we are often just bouncing around between choices.
Choices and Independence: Consider the Relationship
Too many choices can actually over-complicate our lives. We may think that lots of choices are good–we begin to expect many options. But if we examine what happens, we often feel overwhelmed, don’t we? Tulku shares his experience of visiting a large supermarket in Los Angeles. He admits that he was amazed at the size of the bread selection.
Do we really need all these sizes, shapes, colors, and types of bread, he asks? Or do we just think that all this variety represents independence and freedom? Really reflect on this–who is in control here?
When we allow outside objects to control our minds, we usually surrender stability. As a result, our minds flicker back and forth so much, and we lose control. Then, when we ask our minds to stay in one place and to focus, we often experience distraction and frustration. And if we remind our minds that today we want to be kind, gentle, peaceful, and think good thoughts, what happens? Often our minds just don’t listen to us, right? So while we may think we’re independent, we really want to investigate if this is actually the case.
Mental Maintenance Reflection Question
Examine your own mental process in a real-life situation when you are facing many choices. This doesn’t have to be something tremendously important. What are you having for lunch? Or what are you going to watch on your device tonight? We can learn so much about how our minds work when we take a few moments to consider these simple decisions.
Try to observe your mind at work. Do you make a quick choice and stick to that? Or do you spend a lot of time trying to decide? Do you feel satisfied once you make the decision–or do you start having regrets or indecision again? Don’t judge yourself in this investigation–simply notice what is going on in your mind. Do you feel like you have control of your mind?
Build New Mental Muscles with Additional Teachings
Find out more about mental maintenance in upcoming excerpts from this teaching by Tulku Migmar here. You may also want to explore Samye’s short course, Training the Mind, An Introduction. In that course, Phakchok Rinpoche explains about different elements of the mind. He also gives meditation instruction and ways to work with our unruly mental processes.